In November 2011 I took part in The Ghosts of Gone Birds exhibition held at the Rochelle School in Arnold Circus, London. It was the brainchild of Ceri Levy who teamed up with the creative agency Good Pilot to gather together an incredible mix of visual artists to create work inspired by the all too long list of extinct birds. The Birdlife International Preventing Extinctions Programme benefited from a proportion of sales and the whole event was a magnificent show in which to be involved.
I chose to make three species for the project: a King Island Emu, a Pallas’s Cormorant and a Reunion Night Heron. The emu was a life sized piece and was great fun to make although it was a challenge to get the balance right when there is no back claw on their feet. I cut a cup brush from a drill in half to make the bushy ‘eyebrows’ and the handles from a spokeshave helped define the large but rounded beak. Unwittingly I used a cylinder off an old push along mower within the breast of the bird so I was unable to resist titling it with an ornithological pun: Ghost of an Emu, Ghost of a Mower.
The Pallas’s Cormorant had bottle openers for the ear tufts and carefully chosen handles from pliers provided the detail on the beak. More pliers came into their own for creating the elegant neck and shear blades were used in the wings. I had to have a base for this sculpture or it would not stand up so I chose a wok as a rock for it to perch upon. This species was hunted to extinction for its meat so it seemed very apt.
The Reunion Night Heron relies heavily on pliers as well. I made it on similar lines to my stalking bittern as I think that the balance and movement is very successful. Whenever possible I avoid using bases for my work as I feel that they take away from the sculpture and create an artificial frame around the piece. It takes a while to get the centre of balance but when you get it it right the result is very satisfying.